Powering Your Confidence on the Sales Floor

As a bridal consultant, you were probably hired for a number of reasons that pertain directly to your job. But your strong self-confidence was likely top of the list when your prospective employer decided to offer you a sales position.
    Why? Confidence is king when it comes to selling to brides or any other customer in which an emotional, often expensive purchase is involved.
    “Whenever someone is selling a product or service to a consumer who is emotionally charged, then you need to be the best version of yourself,” says Stephanie Hartman, who as the owner of Catalyst Performance Consulting (www.catalyst-performanceconsulting.com) coaches both business owners and employees on how to achieve professional excellence. “A sales consultant who lacks confidence is likely not going to be very helpful in supporting the bride overall as well as in finding what will make the bride feel confident too.”
    Yet you would not be alone if you admitted you’ve sometimes “felt your true power” petering out on the sales floor. In fact, “many sales consultants struggle at times with self confidence for a few reasons,” says Andrea Waltz, who co-owns Courage Crafters (www.couragecrafters.com) and has co-authored many books, including “Go for No! Yes is the Destination, No is How You Get There” (Courage Crafters, 2007). “The most obvious is having the skills to perform the job, or the product/technical knowledge and the communication and selling skills.”
    In short, a solid understanding of the products or services offered and a good grasp of how to communicate and sell them effectively are keys to sustaining your confidence. But they’re also strategies to increase buyers’ confidence in you. This in turn drives sales, delivers more consistent results, and reinforces your rock-star selling status, keeping you feeling confident over time.
    Grace Killelea, author of “The Confidence Effect: Every Woman’s Guide to the Attitude That Attract Success” (Amacom, 2016), says there’s a lot of talk in business and leadership about women experiencing a crisis in confidence today. While understanding why you may be wrestling with this issue in your selling career matters to some extent, it’s more important to learn how to crack the code of confidence. That’s done through acquiring the right tools and learning how to “course correct” back to that place of greater self-assurance.
    “It is not too late to learn the skills to make you appear more confident even if all the internal factors are not addressed,” Killelea writes in her article, “Cracking the Confidence Code.” “Some people call this ‘faking it ‘til you make it.’ I say, ‘Suit up, show up, and start where you are.’ The appearance of confidence is as beneficial as actually feeling confident.”
    If you’re losing sleep or not eating due to interior struggles with confidence, talking to a counselor or therapist about your feelings could help. But if you’ve found your challenges with self-confidence seem to be more about what’s happening at work and are situational (triggered by certain types of people or scenarios), here are 10 suggestions to help renew your power.

1. Find opportunities for improvement. Your challenges with confidence could be tied to something as fixable as learning the details of a new line of gowns, more regularly researching trends, or adopting tactics that will enable you to more directly ask for the sale.
    Try picturing yourself feeling confident and ask what you need to learn to give you that feeling. It may be a hard skill like operating the computer system at work or a soft skill, such as effectively managing objections from emotional brides. Whatever it is, you can’t improve upon it unless you identify it. Look for opportunities that will push you to gain the experience and knowledge you need and, above all, be patient with yourself in the process.
    “There is no magic pill for this except time,” Waltz says.

2. Look for patterns. Often there are some common themes around what’s causing our belief in the self to falter. So track what’s going on, making a list of those people and situations that trigger self-defeating thoughts. Then highlight any repeated behaviors or actions, noting familiar players or plots.
    As Hartman says, “if you have an instant negative emotional reaction with certain types of customers or in certain situations, you may suffer from inadequate feelings or lack of confidence. Or when you’re not feeling you’re enough or should be someone else, these are the things you need to note – the patterns or situations you’ll want to quit ignoring and face.”

3. Be open to feedback. Part of discovering where and how to improve is to get feedback around your behaviors and performance.
    For starters, if the data or information is positive, that in and of itself might be all you need to regain a confident mindset. But you may learn something new about yourself that could be hard to hear, uncomfortable to acknowledge, or downright painful to accept. Hear that from a number of people you respect, and that’s a pretty sure sign it’s a truth that needs to be addressed.
    To get the most honest feedback, consider an anonymous survey, e-mailing it to your co-workers, boss and/or manager. When you get this information, create strategies to address those areas in which you could improve – never let these powerful insights go to waste!

4. Let go of perfection. In a selling environment, it’s common for sales consultants to put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect, Waltz says.
    The problem is, “this is an impossible standard to live up to no matter how admirable,” she says. “With that pressure to be perfect comes added stress and when something (inevitably) is not perfect or a mistake is made, then the effect on self-confidence is that much more devastating. So the goal is to find that balance of striving for superior product-knowledge skills and excellent sales and service abilities while maintaining an awareness that too much stress and pressure can actually hinder our performance on the sales floor rather than enhance it.”

5. Stop apologizing. There’s no question that apologies have an appropriate time and place. But it’s not uncommon for people who struggle with self-confidence to get into the habit of apologizing.
    However, “it is not powerful to be ‘sorry’ for everything,” Killelea writes.
    What is powerful is learning to choose your words, speaking with more distinction, and purposefully minding any “upticks” in the voice.
    “This is not just a young woman’s challenge,” Killelea says. “Women who don’t think about their tone and tenor when they speak can be seen as indecisive and unsure.”

6. Realize you aren’t always the problem. There are going to be instances in which you truly have done nothing wrong in your job and yet your grumpy, domineering, or otherwise challenging customers will make you feel like you’re flawed in some way. So if Bridezilla starts shaking your confidence, don’t take it personally or get emotional.
    “Recognize when it’s not you but the buyer who is out of sorts,” Hartman says. “If you can sense the customer is physically or emotionally diminished (such as hungry, angry, lonely or tired), simply be helpful and kind. Don’t risk a blowup with pushy sales techniques.”

7. Focus on the “now.” There’s nothing you can do about how a customer made you feel yesterday. But you can control how you allow it to affect you today.
    “Confidence is never strengthened when a negative past situation is replayed over and over again,” Waltz says.  
    So if this is taking a toll on your self-esteem on the sales floor, put your focus on the present and the customer in front of you now, she says.
    “Delivering the best possible experiences to that customer is what will help build that confidence – not dwelling on the past,” she says.

8. Practice your power pose. Research shows there’s a huge connection between our physical presence and confidence.
    “How we walk, talk, stand, move and respond to others dictates if others see us as confident,” Killelea writes, referencing experiments by social psychologist Dr. Amy Cuddy of Harvard University. “Cuddy and her research partners discovered some startling facts. A two-minute ‘power pose’ (think of how Wonder Woman stands, hands on hips, feet spread apart, head up, eyes forward) has an immediate and significant shift on our brain chemistry. Their studies showed that people who do a two-minute power pose prior to an interview had better results than low-power posers. Low-power poses are folded in, arms and legs crossed, hunched in a chair.”
    She continues, “To quote Dr. Cuddy, ‘Our bodies change our minds, our mind changes our behavior, and our behavior changes outcomes.’ You can’t power pose in front of your boss or peers (but it’s great behind closed doors), but women can certainly walk taller, make eye contact, and take up more physical space. If you stand in the shadows, you will never be seen.”

9. Use the power of visualization. No doubt, you have been successful at sales in the face of someone or an event that strained your confidence. What was it? Think ahead about that specific memory and clearly identify it. When you’re feeling triggered, you can call upon that experience and use that visual to empower success in the new situation.
    Or, as Hartman suggests, simply “think about someone you helped and when you did a fabulous job in spite of being nervous. Get in that headspace before you interact with that customer and then the best version of yourself will be presented. Just remembering you have it in you helps!”

10. Stand your ground. Just because you’re in sales doesn’t mean the customer is always right or has the right to verbally or emotionally abuse you.
    First of all, customers sometimes don’t know what they don’t know – and that gap in knowledge, experience, or understanding is what you should feel excited about bringing to the table. If a customer claims to know more than you about something and is clearly wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up. Just be smart about how you do it, remembering that your goal is always to help and to make her experience exceptional.
    As to the second point, dealing with an emotionally or verbally antagonistic customer, you’ve got to draw a line that lets her know you won’t tolerate her words and/or behavior. If a bride takes it upon herself to try to put you down personally, kindly but firmly let her know it’s unacceptable. If she continues and calling for reinforcement via your boss or another consultant doesn’t help, it is your right to cut this customer loose – usually, the sooner the better.
    Remember, you can’t win them all so don’t try to be all things to all customers. Instead, be excellent for as many as you can, saving your time and energy for those who cherish you versus those who might try to diminish you and your confident self .

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